Baha'i News -- A singular memorial day Top Stories - USA TODAY

A singular memorial day

Thu Sep 12, 7:08 AM ET

Rick Hampson USA TODAY

This was no holiday, no day for barbecues, the beach or the Indy 500. This was a real memorial day -- the greatest single act of commemoration in U.S. history.

On round-the-clock television and at ceremonies in almost every city, town and wide place in the road, the nation remembered a day it hasn't even begun to forget.

''The murder of innocents cannot be explained, only endured,'' President Bush ( news - web sites) said Wednesday of the 3,010 victims of the terrorist attacks last Sept. 11. ''And though they died in tragedy, they did not die in vain. Their loss has moved a nation to action in a cause to defend other innocent lives across the world.''

Around that world -- and at Ground Zero in Manhattan, on the South Lawn of the White House, on a hillside in western Pennsylvania -- Americans stood silent at 8:46 a.m. It was the moment a year ago that the first hijacked jetliner sliced into the north tower of the World Trade Center. It was the moment on Wednesday when all the bad memories came rushing back.

At that hour, people gathered in the atrium of Hartsfield International Airport in Atlanta, on the steps of the Colorado State Capitol in Denver, in an intersection in downtown Phoenix. A lone bugler played taps outside the Daley Center in Chicago. In Galatia, Ill., 350 miles away, a coal miner bowed his head before beginning his shift.

For 10 minutes, customers trying to place phone orders with L.L. Bean, the store in Freeport, Maine, that never closes, heard a recorded message about the commemoration. A federal judge in Wilmington, N.C., paused before a hearing in the dispute over which of two beauty queens should represent the state in the Miss America ( news - web sites) pageant.

At Boston's Logan International Airport, where the two jets that struck the Trade Center took off, all ground operations stopped. On the Massachusetts Turnpike, collectors stopped taking tolls. At the Atlantis Casino Resort in Reno, dealers held their cards. Security guards stood silent, their hands folded. Cocktail servers paused, drinks on their trays.

On Manhattan's Upper East Side, hard-hatted members of a city road crew stood at attention, facing south in the direction of Ground Zero, 6 miles away.

In the hours that followed, the nation virtually exhausted its symbolic vocabulary of grief and remembrance. People lowered flags, sang God Bless America, planted trees, rang bells, read names, lit candles, gave blood, banged drums, played bagpipes, released balloons, recited poems, fired salutes, held flowers and flashed headlights.

And they came together to do it. The reason was simple, said the Rev. Terry Smith, whose United Congregational Church in Holyoke, Mass., held a 24-hour interfaith vigil: ''People wanted to be with other people.''

Victims' relatives agreed. ''We're alone every day in our grief, so it's good to be around other people today,'' said Rory Murray of Hoboken, N.J., a mile-square city on the Hudson River that lost 57 people.

On her way to the New York Stock Exchange ( news - web sites), Alexis Glick called her mother to report what she'd seen going into the subway: ''People around me had this tear in their eye. . . . I've lived here my entire life, and I only felt this kind of emotion on the days following Sept. 11.''

The day's observance, in its intensity and scope, surpassed any such day in the nation's experience. ''It's the first time we've ever had this kind of event. It's a national catharsis,'' said Columbia University historian Henry Graf, who as a young soldier saw Franklin Roosevelt's casket roll through Washington in 1945.

The first anniversaries of the Lincoln and Kennedy assassinations and the attack on Pearl Harbor passed with comparatively little attention. Word of Gettysburg did not reach some parts of the nation until the following year. ''But people have been planning this for an entire year,'' Graf said, ''and it's fed by the media.''

The result was a public event with private impact. A woman getting ready for work glanced out her window into the apartment next door. The neighbor sat alone at the breakfast table, watching the Ground Zero ceremony on television. A candle was burning on the table, and the woman was wiping away tears.

At Ground Zero

In New York, pipe-and-drum units marched toward Ground Zero from all five boroughs in the hours before dawn. At the ceremony, Gov. George Pataki read Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and New Jersey Gov. James McGreevey read the Declaration of Independence.

Rudy Giuliani, the former mayor who guided New York City through its post-Sept. 11 trauma, began a reading of the names of those who died at the Trade Center. ''Gordon M. Aamoth Jr.,'' he recited, blinking in the sun and wind. ''Edelmiro Abad. Maria Rose Abad. Andrew Anthony Abate ....'' He was followed by readers who included victims' relatives as well as officials and celebrities. By the time the name of Igor Zukelman was read, 2 hours had elapsed -- yet another reminder of Sept. 11's awful toll.

Nickola Lampley said she was stunned to see her name flashed on television during the roll call. The 24-year-old Brooklyn woman said she was working near the Trade Center Sept. 11 but was unhurt. Her sister reported her missing when she couldn't reach her after the attacks. The incident showed how city officials still have not settled on the final list of those lost.

As the names were read, some relatives reacted by holding up a photo, a mass card, a sign. Some wept quietly or clutched family members.

Later, they walked down into the Trade Center's foundation and dropped flowers into a ''Circle of Honor'' created on the concrete floor. The wind kicked up the fine white dust at the site, reminding many that dust was all that was left of many victims after the towers' fiery collapse.

Veronica Velez's cousin Jennifer de Jesus died in the south tower. On Wednesday, Velez's shoes were caked with dust. ''We are mortal people made of dust, and the wind was carrying the dust up all around us,'' she said. ''It was fitting and beautiful.''

At 9:37 a.m., another moment of silence marked the crash of American Airlines Flight 77 into the Pentagon ( news - web sites). Bush, speaking at the Pentagon, pledged to press the fight against terrorism.

The president also visited Shanksville, Pa., where thousands gathered in a field to remember the 40 innocent passengers and crewmembers who perished in the 10:06 a.m. crash of United Flight 93 -- heroes, authorities believe, who fought their attackers. Again there was silence, and a bell tolled as each victim's name was read.

Bush later visited New York to lay a wreath at Ground Zero and speak to the nation from Ellis Island.

Before his speech, the city held a ceremony at Battery Park, where a sculpture entitled Sphere that had stood in the Trade Center Plaza was relocated after the attack. Mayor Michael Bloomberg read Franklin Roosevelt's speech, ''The Four Freedoms.'' The mayor and a retired firefighter who lost his two sons at the Trade Center lit an eternal flame.

Nation on heightened alert

The day's observances occurred in the shadow of possible war against Iraq and a heightened state of alert at home. Anti-aircraft missiles were deployed around Washington. Police closed sidewalks in front of the White House. Police helicopters flew overhead.

The day was full of symbolism, but relatively short on original speeches. ''People have run out of words,'' Columbia's Graf said.

Life and work went on. Grief counselors handled calls and visits from those who found the day overwhelming. Staffers at the New York City Medical Examiner's office continued DNA testing in an attempt to identify the 15,000 unidentified body parts recovered at Ground Zero. And Luke Judge, born in lower Manhattan 12 hours after the towers fell, celebrated his first birthday quietly at home with his mother and father.

The Yankees and Orioles played baseball at Yankee Stadium, where a monument to the victims of 9/11 was unveiled near those to Babe Ruth, Joe DiMaggio and other Yankee heroes in an area beyond the outfield fence called Monument Park. ''That is hallowed ground at Yankee Stadium,'' shortstop Derek Jeter said. ''To dedicate something out there is very appropriate.''

The New York Stock Exchange opened at noon, 2 hours later than usual, after the Ground Zero ceremony.

Dale and Dagni Anders of Wichita went through with plans for a church ceremony to mark their 37th wedding anniversary, but with a twist: The organist played a selection of patriotic music.

Air traffic was down. Logan in Boston handled about a quarter of its usual daily traffic. About one in 10 flights was canceled for lack of passengers. As they prepared to board a flight to Nantucket, Jim and Linda Roberts, a northern Virginia couple celebrating their 20th anniversary, said they weren't concerned about safety. ''Today's the best day to fly because of the tightened security,'' he said.

Thousands of communities around the nation held ceremonies. A service in Los Angeles, at the recently dedicated Roman Catholic Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, included prayers from Catholics, Muslims, Jews, a Sikh, a Buddhist, a Hindu, a black Protestant and a Baha'i. Meanwhile, in Montgomery, Ala., atheists held a secular ceremony.

In Atlanta, the mood was muted at an interfaith service at Martin Luther King Jr.'s old church, Ebenezer Baptist. Many people seemed lost in their reflections. ''I wanted to remember what happened at the exact time it happened, surrounded by people of different faiths and different religious values,'' said Jacqueline Laures, 35.

More than 6,000 flag-festooned motorcycles paid noisy tribute to the Sept. 11 victims on a long ride through metropolitan Phoenix to the state capitol. Organizer Steven Martin said there was significance in the sound: ''Riding a motorcycle symbolizes freedom. . . . Plus, the thunder you hear from the tailpipe says power. The number of riders says 'we are back, we are strong, we are not beaten.'''

In Jupiter, Fla., residents brought flowers to fill a circular green outside an art museum on the campus of Atlantic University. Houstonians placed 3,000 carnations in a reflecting pool at City Hall. The Charlotte Museum of History rang its 7-ton American Freedom Bell once an hour. The College Park, Md., Aviation Museum handed out red-white-and-blue gliders.

Carmel, Ind., police observed the day with a SWAT team competition designed to strengthen homeland security. The competition was preceded by prayers, speeches and a 21-gun salute.

Three dozen residents of a homeless shelter in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., gathered around a flagpole. ''They're Americans, too, whether people are rich or poor, on the top rung or bottom,'' said Ezra Krieg, a staff member at the shelter.

Sixth-graders from Nixon Elementary in Montgomery, Ala., went to a firehouse to deliver cookies they had baked. ''They decided they wanted to make something,'' principal Terese Goodson said. ''They didn't want anything store bought.'' In Roswell, N.M., Parkview Elementary unveiled a sign that changed the school motto from ''Home of the Friendly Pirates'' to ''Home of the Friendly Patriots.''

In Seattle, about 10,000 people gathered at Safeco Field not long after daybreak to hear the Seattle Symphony Chorale perform Mozart's Requiem. Later, several thousand attended a memorial near the Space Needle. ''I pretty much cried for a year. I still get nightmares,'' said Cynthia Munson, 50, who wore a T-shirt with the American flag on it. ''We're on the West Coast, but it could happen here.''

Dozens of communities unveiled memorials built with fragments from Sept. 11. Lafayette, La., used two scorched, warped beams from the Trade Center and limestone from the Pentagon. A memorial in the Cleveland suburb of Eastlake also incorporated two pieces of Trade Center wreckage.

President Bush had officially proclaimed Sept. 11 to be called Patriot Day. But it felt like Memorial Day -- the way it was intended to feel.


©Copyright 2002, USA Today

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